Farm Business 19th March

One of the most difficult things facing small food producers, particularly in a recession, is finding a market for their produce.  I have spoken many times on these pages about how difficult it is to get products into the supermarkets and then, once in, maintaining the rate of sales, promotional programmes etc that are required, not to mention margins and finding interesting ways to communicate with potential consumers to ensure your products move off shelf when no-one has heard of you.

In our bid to get listed in the supermarkets we tend to ignore one potential outlet for our produce that could help provide an income stream and a mutually beneficial marketing platform – our local restaurant industry.  We all know that eating out of the home is a huge market, and growing, but in our hurry to hit the ‘big time’ we often overlook this potentially excellent market on our doorsteps.

I’m encouraged that despite the recession I find that many eating establishments – particularly high street cafes and pubs serving food – are doing good daily business.  It strikes me that for local producers this offers a wonderful marketing opportunity. What better way to spread the word about named regional produce than to have it featured on the menu?  And it would seem a good solution for these eateries to have good, reliable, top quality local ingredients that they can identify and promote.

When a person is going out to eat their expectation of what’s being served to them is far greater than of a meal purchased from a supermarket.  More and more restaurants want to develop and promote the fact that they are supporting local and regional producers, yet they are finding it difficult to find small independent producers who will supply them.  I believe that for anyone wanting to find a loyal customer base who wants quality and provenance, their own local restaurants could be a great start.

Recently I had the pleasure of eating at a top restaurant, Roast, in the heart of the City of London.  Their mantra is to support local and regional suppliers and not only is the food quality fantastic but the consumer feels good that they are helping the farming community by frequenting this restaurant.  In the past organic was the route that many restaurants went down in order to communicate to its customers their concern for good ingredients.  Now organic is seen as less important than traceability and provenance.  Local quality produce represents value for money without the logistical nightmare of national distribution.  Consumers are looking for food that is linked to the actual producer, and restaurants are a way of providing that.  A menu comes alive when it can state the name of the farmer who produced the meat and it shows that the establishment has gone to some lengths to source produce locally.   This really is a winning partnership.

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~ by theblackfarmer on March 19, 2010.

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